Microsoft has officially named the client that is the desktop focal point for its corporate real-time communications and collaboration infrastructure. The company has also upgraded its instant messaging/presence server and its Web conferencing service.
The client, released in beta last November under the code-name Istanbul, is now called Microsoft Office Communicator 2005 and will ship within the next three months, according to chief software architect for Microsoft, Bill Gates.
Pricing and licensing were not announced. A Web-based version of the client that will run in a browser on Windows 9x and non-Microsoft platforms will be introduced this year.
The client integrates presence information, instant messaging, voice, video, Web conferencing and telephony into one desktop interface. When coupled with a PBX, it can be used to control calls, through such features as call forwarding and multi-call conferencing.
"The idea is to have instant messaging and phone controls in one place," Gates said. "This is a new kind of product ... that points the way in terms of the deep integration people want. Presence is not just in that IM world; it is here in this unified capability for doing office communication."
He unveiled the Communicator moniker and the roadmap for Live Communications Server (LCS) 2005 Service Pack 1 and Live Meeting 2005 during a live event in San Francisco that was also Webcast using the company's Live Meeting service.
The event, while long on hype and short on news, did represent Microsoft's clearest definition to date of its long-term real-time communication and collaboration strategy.
Back in 2000, that strategy had Microsoft Exchange as its focal point, but today the Office System is the centrepiece for pulling together a laundry list of clients and servers including Outlook, Communicator, Exchange, Office, SharePoint, Live Communication Server and Live Meeting.
"They are pulling together a more complete communications and collaboration strategy at this point, and they are acknowledging things like non-Windows clients," Burton Group analyst, Peter O'Kelly, said. "So they are doing a lot of things right."
Gates also said the first service pack for LCS 2005, the SIP-based backend server for Communicator, would ship in April.
The service pack includes support for Communicator, which requires updates to the Active Directory schema, and connectivity to public instant messaging platforms AOL, Yahoo and MSN. The technology to connect LCS to public IM services will require a separate license.
Live Meeting 2005 includes many new features. They include: Integration with Office applications that allows Live Meeting sessions to be conducted within Office applications; support for any document type including zoom features in PowerPoint presentations; integration with Active Directory for account creation, password management and user login; and new meeting controls.